Something came over me the other night. I had a hankering for a Dirty Buffalo. Most people have no idea what a Dirty Buffalo is, and rightfully so. Before your imagination runs wild, I’ll stop you and share that a Dirty Buffalo is a drink that this bar in St. Cloud, Minnesota makes. It’s essentially a couple shots of alcohol mixed together with something brown and topped with a little half and half. It tastes amazing, but don’t drink more than one, otherwise that half and half will be overwhelming the next morning.
But I wasn’t going to go all the way to St. Cloud for a drink, so I got the inclination to Google the establishment that serves the drink, just to see what would pop up.
At present, there are 113 reviews of MC’s Dugout, one of my favorite bars in St. Cloud. Not surprisingly, but also not very interestingly, everyone loves that place and no one has a bad thing to say about it.
But then I started Googling all the other bars, and uncovered bundles of joy. Whether it is an indictment of the bars themselves or the people that go there, I found that my absolute favorite place, The Press, has more negative reviews than that new Blade Runner movie.
People are actually shocked when they walk into various bars and encounter bad service and drinks made with liquid that barely passes for potable alcohol. “The drinks suck,” or “I waited ten minutes for a waitress” are common points of contention. To the men and women writing these reviews: did you realistically expect anything else?
And so I continued to parse through the wreckage. I learned there is now a bouncer with a ponytail at one of the bars that goes around choking people and starting fights, which is a tad bit humorous if only because these alleged actions seem a tad egregious. And most bartenders and bouncers are more concerned with mingling with women than providing quality service. Again, this can’t be shocking for a college town.
Maybe I’m weird, but it’s funny to sit back and read all these reviews because these “issues” seemed to be the norm when I was going to school there. I once had a bartender slam a glass and cuss me out after I politely asked him if he could make a drink in another glass. I guess for him, tossing dish ware was more cathartic than simply saying no.
Not getting correct change back was also another part of going to the bars that many people learned to deal with. I think this happened every night I went out. It doesn’t really matter when the drinks are less than a gallon of gas. A bouncer once accused a woman I was with of behaving indecently on the dance floor. The dude actually thought that was happening, in front of hundreds of people.
These memories elicit nothing more than a belly laugh and a shoulder shrug, probably because there isn’t anything else I can actually say to rationalize these events. They happened, so I might as well embrace this and find the good in them, or at least the humor.
I’m sure instances like this happen in Winona, Bemidji, Marshall, and any other college town one could name. The term college bar implies prepare to be discouraged. There are no upscale college bars because that would be pointless. College kids only need music, cheap strobe lights, twenty bucks, and members of the opposite sex to show up.
A while back I wrote a post about what St. Cloud meant to me. I wrote it as I was about to embark on a bike tour, still salty about the unfortunate events that occurred in my final months there.
I’m not so salty anymore. Enough time has passed where I can appreciate what happened and not devalue my experiences. I miss being there, hanging out with my friends and making bad decisions, but I also have the foresight and knowledge to know that longing for those days are better than actually reliving them.
I had a conversation with someone the other day about my decision to go to SCSU.
“I thought you always wanted to go to the U,” she said, in reference to the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities.
I did always want to go to the U, but when that rejection letter arrived, I was more than willing to head up north. I also don’t think I’d be the person I am today if I stayed in the metro.
So many crazy things happened and I met too many different people to second-guess my own decision. I instantly think of cycling, and the passion I developed for that. It wouldn’t have been possible if I never got over myself and befriended a guy I initially hated more than six-month dental checkups.
I wouldn’t have gotten to explore northern cities I had no idea existed, like Alexandria, Willmar, Pine River, Hackensack, Spicer, Lake Bronson, Sauk Centre, and Karlstad, to name a few. To many, these cities have nothing to offer, but to me, they were part of my emotional growth. I highly recommend checking them out if you ever come to Minnesota or need an excuse to get out and see something new. Some of the best people I know live in these forgotten nooks of the state.
And I just can’t envision my future without cycling someplace I’ve never been being on the docket. That’s what I miss most about St. Cloud. It’s not the dive bars, women, or late-night drinking. It’s the constant change I saw myself going through, which isn’t to suggest that I’ve stopped changing, but it’s harder to be aware of these differences when everyday is predicated around making money and working toward something greater.
Perhaps what I miss most about St. Cloud is the bubble I lived in, where responsibility extended no further than making it to class on time. I miss the nights in hotel rooms where my friends and I would just sit and watch TV after seventy miles of biking. I miss the Wobegon Trail in St. Joseph and the vast expanse of farmland I saw riding that trail. I also yearn to see another sunset develop, beginning with that intoxicating red that lights up the sky, and finishing with a grey ambiance that soon turns into beaming stars.
Like many, I’m kind of hard on myself, constantly wondering if I’m doing the right things to be successful. It’s a good thing because it shows the status quo isn’t sufficient. But sometimes it’s good to reflect and be happy with the journey. We can always think we haven’t done enough, but when we look back, we might just see how far we have actually come.
Want more Quentin Super? Purchase his book, The Long Road North, here!
Also, check out his book tour recap here!